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In the autumn, when there is a glut of vegetables on the Martyn Loach's allotment or if the apple harvest has been good or you've been collecting fruit while out walking, you may have to store fresh produce or conserve it in some way.
If you safely keep fruit and vegetables through the winter, you save money and can enjoy their great taste over several months. Remember to sollect only the best produce, discard any that is damaged or diseased.
After lifting, clean soil off roots such as carrots and beetroot and then cover in damp sand. Dry potatoes so the skin hardens and keep in a hessian sack.
When their leaves have died back, onions should be lifted and left to dry, preferably on wire racks in the sun. When they are really dry and the skins papery either plait them using string or store in crates or baskets, and leave in a cool dark place.
Apples can be stored for a fair amount of time, particularly late maturing varieties, and pears between two weeks and three months.
Position the fruits in a single layer, not touching each other and keep different varieties separately. Make sure there's good air circulation and you can go to the trouble of individually wrapping apples in tissue or newspaper. Check regularly and discard any fruit that is showing signs of rot.
Many vegetables including beans, sprouts and broccoli can be frozen. First blanch in water to kill bacteria without destroying vitamins, then cool quickly add place in freezer bags. Berries and currents and many fruits such as damsons, even apples, can also be frozen.
Chillies can be left to dry in a bowl or hung up, they also freeze very well. Tomatoes can be frozen or you can make the equivalent of sun-dried tomatoes in the oven. Varieties with lots of flesh rather than juice are most suitable, halve and salt them and place on a rack at a low temperature (about 50C) for about 5 hours, they should still be slightly moist and can be stored in olive oil.
For fruit use syrup made up from 8oz of sugar dissolved in 1 pt of hot water. Trim off any stems and leaves, apples and pears should be peeled and sliced, and then completely fill the jar before pouring the syrup in. Now place the jars so they are not touching on a trivet in a large pan. Fill the pan with warm water (about 40C) covering the jars completely, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 mins.
Making pickles, jams and chutneys is another great way of preserving fruit and vegetables, in fact pickling dates back 4000 years.
There's too many methods and recipes to go into here but the science is roughly the same. After heating fruit for jams, adding sugar helps prevent bacteria growth, while pickles and chutneys use a combination of vinegar, salt, sugar and spices.
For both bottling and making preserves or chutneys make sure that everything you use is sterilized either by heat or specialist solutions.
Create a Halloween party in your house or garden with ideas and suggestions from David Coton that will keep your children and neighbours thrilled and spooked on the 31st October.
Looking for some advice on how to decorate your garden for halloween? David Coton has some great ideas to help you create a horror themed garden to scare your neighbours and any trick & treaters who come to your door.
To grow the biggest, scariest pumpkin in time for Halloween isn't easy as they take some time to mature and prefer a warm climate. To have the best chance of success Martyn Loach recommends sowing seed indoors during April and then planting out in late May or June.
Used originally to frighten away evil spirits, now placed near the front door to deter trick or treaters, carved pumpkins have been part of Halloween for a very long time. Here Martyn Loach explains the process of creating the scariest pumpkin in your street.